Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Snow Returns To The Mountains

Monday, February 23, 201511:50 p.m.

Chinook Pass, June 2011. Credit: WSDOT.

When I was walking home from school today, I stopped at a viewpoint right above my house to take a quick glance at the Cascades, curious to see how white they where. I knew how atrocious this winter had been in the snow department, so I wasn't very optimistic, but I was nonetheless shocked when I looked at them. There was almost no snow. The mountains were almost completely bare except for the highest peaks. It looked more like July than February.

There is this one little mountain (~4000 ft) near the pass that I have always used as a "reference" for how well our snowpack in the Cascades is doing. I remember it being completely white during some of our better years, like 2007-2008 and 2010-2011, and 50% white during our worst year, which, before this year, was 2009-2010.  When I took a look at it today, it was completely barren. It was pretty sad to see.

But it won't be barren for long!

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Look at all that snow! The amounts aren't all that spectacular (we are forecast to get a little over a foot in a week at Snoqualmie Pass), but at this point, I think we'll all just take what we can get.

The UW also makes maps of snow depth, so let's see how that changes throughout the period.

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As bad as the snow situation is in the Washington Cascades, it is far worse in the Oregon Cascades. Thankfully, by the end of the week, things should improve there as well.

Why have we been so warm, and what is causing us to get back into this snowy pattern? Well, for the majority of this winter, we've had some sort of ridge parked over us, giving us warm and dry weather. When we have had precipitation, it has had subtropical origins and has thus been correlated with exceptionally high wintertime temperatures and river flooding. We are well on our way to having the worst snow year ever at Snoqualmie Pass - we only have 79 inches (normally, we'd have over 250 by now) and we'll need another 112 to avoid breaking 1976-1977's abysmal 191 inch season total. There is a chance that we could end up not breaking the record, as March can still be a very snowy month in the mountains. We'll have to see.

In the meantime, the Summit at Snoqualmie is advertising their awesome tubing facility.